Love, Sarah delivered lines not connection. There were glimpses of the bond between a granddaughter and grandmother.
High in the alps of Austria, the grand daughter Sarah, encourages us to rough it backpacking with her in travels of Europe, Asia and America. Flashbacks scenes introduce the nature her relationship with her grandmother, Nan. She sends postcards to her Nan to bridge the distance between them. For every country Sarah visits, we revisit her at home with her Nan in Australia.
Colloquially, we’re reminded of the unique experiences they shared. Panopticon Collective have brought a fresh new landscape into North Melbourne and Melbourne in general. The initial relationship of the central characters did warm up eventually, along with the collection of gas heaters in the warehouse venue. The story stilted and became hard to hear at times, over the odd truck passing by on the neighbouring road.
The lack of repartee between new blood Jeni Benzuidenhout and veteran abilities of Penelope Langmead were obvious. An abundance of nerves could excuse the confusion in the opening scene. Consequentially, I wasn’t convinced Nan was her relative.
The pivotal placement and development of the postcards, enhanced the format in which the play was derived. Kathryn Goldie includes them as a consistent theme to link the time sequence. Sebastian Bertoli compliments the screenplay and directs attention to the postcards. They’re represented as large A3 size sheets of paper which Sarah folds into halves and quarters and mentions she forgets to leave space for a stamp. We’re encouraged to listen to her description of the sites as she writes and folds.
Confusion occurs when Sarah’s diction is out of sync with her actions. She arrives in Paris. The sadness of stark neat parks and awful horses heads outside butchers, didn’t have the impact expected. I heard only a reading of emotions with disjointed gestures.
Jeni Benzuidenhout does draw on her craft. In Poland, she mimics her Polish travel guide’s forceful behaviour. Using an effective accent and authentically relating it to her Nan’s personality.
Bertoli needed to direct a clear distinction to connect the symbolism between Goldie’s metaphors. Sarah describes the straight trees in Poland in comparison to twisted and colourful Australian gums. The next moment we are flash backed to Nan in her Australian home. I assume I’m supposed to assimilate the metaphor between trees and family trees?
Portions of the intricate screenplay pulled together. Jeni Bezuidenhout petulant portrayal of Sarah as a thirteen year old at her Nan’s house for dinner. I could taste her favourite chicken schnitzel her Nan was going to cook.
Penelope Langmead makes us giggle from Goldie’s depiction of a stubborn grandmother in denial about a recent stroke. We see Langmead’s years of performing and expertise come to the fore. We relate to her depiction of her condition. We enjoy her conversation over the mobile phone to her grand daughter, of her ageing knees and her justification for pulling weeds in the garden.
Sarah is in America, New York City. Nan tells us about her first occupation in a shoe factory. We learn why Nan doesn’t like the shoes worn by the central character in the New York based sitcom, Sex and the City. We believe in their genuine growth and affectionate connection. A dream Sarah has during the final leg of her trip, reminds us of their age gap and Nan’s longevity decreasing.
The final scene came about before I realised. Due to the fact the lines were a hurried muttering of dialogue, when the characters moved to a lower position on a chair and the floor. I couldn’t begin to care about what I couldn’t see or hear properly. A consideration of a raised stage in future productions would be useful.
The tepid relationship between grand daughter and grandmother warmed up intermittently with helpful interjection of the music ensemble. The Scratch House is a marvellous venue acoustically. The height of the warehouse ceiling, enhanced the angelic octaves from Isabelle Bertolli and the gentle accompany of the flautist Kelly Dowall and pianist Jai Leeworthy.
A new company with new material on a first night performance. It will be interesting to see their development further down the track.
Respectfully, Sebastian Bertoli on behalf of Panopticon Collectives, reminded us to take a moment to acknowledge the traditional owners of the Wurundjeri land where the Scratch House theatre resides